Welcome back! I don’t often do TV show reviews, so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit here. As I’m sure you know from the title, I’m going to be talking about an absolute classic, The X-Files. I started watching the boxset a couple of years back and then just kinda stopped for some reason, so I decided to bring it back for the 2020 ~spooky season~. Spooky season is over now, but it took me a while to work my way through the season because it is pretty long, and I’ve also been watching The Queen’s Gambit recently with my boyfriend which is a very different show to The X-Files, though I do recommend it.
The X-Files originally ran from 1993-2002, with a revival in 2016. I’ve gone right back to the beginning, and today I’m reviewing specifically Season 1 from 1993-94. The first thing I’d like to note before we get into the review itself is that it does have some rather… dated, shall we say, representation. There are some attitudes that definitely wouldn’t be considered OK in 2020. Specifically, from what I recall, these attitudes and representations pertain to Native Americans, the transgender community, and autistic people. These are limited to incidences in single episodes rather than recurring attitudes. There’s also, unsurprisingly, a lack of diversity within the cast that’s fairly typical of 90s TV shows. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be taking the show as a product of its time because I do believe it’s an interesting, engaging and entertaining show despite some aspects of it sitting rather uncomfortably with a modern audience.
One of the ways The X-Files is quite forward-thinking is in its refusal to feature a romance plot (in the early seasons at least). If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, or if you follow me on other social media, then you might know that I don’t like romance books, and that does extend to TV shows. It’s not that I don’t watch TV shows with romance plots (else I’d find it pretty challenging to find anything to watch), but I don’t go seeking out romance by any means. Scully and Mulder’s friendship is great, and I do really think that pushing them straight into a relationship would have ruined the dynamic between them. They rely on each other, but they don’t get distracted by each other, which I think is an important aspect of their relationship that makes them work well together as a team.
The plots of the episodes are all pretty different, which keeps the (24-episode-long) series feeling fresh. There’s not an overarching plot to speak of, though there are elements that recur throughout the series to maintain a thread between some of the episodes. Generally speaking, each episode deals with a different ‘X-Files’ — the cases the FBI has deemed too weird to investigate. Mulder, the believer, usually insists on investigating the case, dragging along skeptic Scully. The tension between the two characters lessens throughout the series, as Scully starts to open her mind a bit more to the possibility of the extraterrestrial, though she always turns to the more scientific explanations first. The episodes deal with everything from alien abductions to supernatural creatures, to government coverups. The ones I enjoyed the most were the ones that dealt with supernatural creatures or — as often is the case — some kind of supernatural human because I like the psychological aspect of those. The alien abductions seemed a bit too off-screen to be quite as gripping, and the government coverups felt a little too corporate. The X-Files is at its best when it finds Scully and Mulder hunting down some kind of supernatural person through abandoned buildings.
The main themes of this show: loss, death, belief and, of course, conspiracy are all explored fairly equally, and in great depth. Many of the episodes feature ghost-like characters, or some form of returning from the dead. The great driving force of the series is the abduction of Mulder’s sister, an event that happened when he was 12. This is portrayed as the origin of his belief in the extraterrestrial, and he believes that if he pursues the X-Files cases, he might one day stumble upon an explanation for the disappearance of his sister, or even find his sister.
Overall, this is a great show, and it’s easy to see how it’s become a cult classic. So long as you can put up with the 90s camera ratio, the 90s style, and the 90s attitudes towards minority groups, this is definitely one to watch if you’re into science fiction. I’m finding it quite refreshing to watch something that doesn’t have that glossy feeling that so many shows nowadays have with their incredibly high production standards. It’s a bit gritty (partly just down to the 90s technology) and feels almost more intense for it.
Have you seen The X-Files? Let me know what you think!